Afropolitan Hackers: Redefining Anglophone African Literature

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In the twenty-first century, we are witnessing a resounding boom in the production and reception of Anglophone African literature. Novelists like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Lauren Beukes, and Dinaw Mengestu have achieved critical acclaim in Africa, the U.S., Europe, and beyond. My dissertation examines how these writers are reshaping our understandings of African literature and criticism. I explore how “African Boom” writers resemble computer hackers that break existing conventions and actively rebuild those systems for the better. They adeptly learn the “code” of Anglophone literature, but then they “break into” the literary canon, steal the master’s tropes, and modify the literature to be even more effective and resonant among academic and popular audiences. My dissertation specifically engages with the writing of authors who I call Afropolitan hackers. These writers distinctively reflect Afro-cosmopolitan sensibilities in both their fictional and critical works. As they receive high praise from reputable academic and popular literary critics, Afropolitan hackers make bold, dynamic changes to the very literary canon they studied and disrupted. In order to demonstrate how African Boom writers are Afropolitan hackers, I consider how they challenge past and present concerns in postcolonial literature. Specifically, I examine how some of them are “hacking” three classic literary tropes: the flâneur, the griot, and the scammer. By simultaneously debunking and extending traditional theoretical expectations of the African narrative, select Africa-based and migrant Afropolitan authors challenge the notion that their writing must epitomize a single story if they seek to appeal to a global audience.